This past summer I lead a six week course focused just on niching.
I’m doing round two of it in January of 2013 (you can read more about that here).
And it’s had me reflecting on what I learned about niching from it. And I learned a lot. These are the lessons I would pass onto any of my colleagues working with people on their niche.
LESSON #1: it can take time. That’s the reality. I’m a bigger and bigger believer in the notion that you don’t find your niche. Your niche finds you. Consistently, I see that when the right niche hits someone it’s like a lightbulb switching on. They get chills. Everyone they talk to gets chills. It’s so immediately clear. But, even one second before that moment, it wasn’t clear. And there was nothing they could do about it. It’s a mystery in a way. All you can do is prepare. Listen. Get ready. Open up. Ask good questions and hope that a good one comes. I mean, sure, you can arbitrarily pick one and rush the process . . . but it won’t feel good and it won’t last very long. Niching is more a mystery to me now than ever before.
LESSON #2: it can be scary. For so many reasons, this can be such an anxiety ridden journey for people. In order for a niche to be authentic, it often ends up having a deep connection to our own deepest wounds and struggles. Which aren’t always easy to face (even if it’s ultimately healing to do so). Even if we know what the niche is then there are all the questions of ‘who am I to say something about this? does the world need one more blog writing about this?’. Stepping into a niche asks you to be visible in a whole new way that you might never have done before. All scary stuff. And that can require some slowness, gentleness and lots of empathy on the part of the person facilitating the process.
LESSON #3: doing the deep inner work looking at your wounds is worth it. Man. This is a big one. Our deepest wounds are often the doorway to our truest niche. I have consistently found that the people who were really willing to slow down and do that inner work had better results. And that they found the process so liberating and healing. They felt more solid, grounded and able to tell their story. People who’ve really done this inner work show up not as wounded people, but as medicine.
LESSON #4: don’t push people or ignore their fears. I’ve done this. I’ve seen it done. I’ve had it done to me. It never helps. You can’t push someone into discovering their calling. You can’t shame them into rushing faster to find their niche. Things will happen when they happen. And people’s fears can often be the doorway in to them discovering their niche.
LESSON #5: we all do better with some love and encouragement. I really fell in love with the people in the last group. They were the loveliest, most good hearted people. And I told them that I loved them a lot. I encouraged them and cheered them on a lot. We’re all better when we’re loved.
LESSON #6: create a step by step system for people to follow. This is something I’m in the process of doing. But when people are doing something so big, daunting and scary its immensely reassuring to have a clearly laid our path, a clear map they can follow and find themselves in. Wandering around a city lost when you urgently need to get somewhere is stressful. Having a map and knowing where you are is a huge relief. Having a clearly drawn route to follow by a native of the city? It’s why I have tried to lay out my four simple steps to figuring out your niche. I’m sure it will evolve over time to make the journey easier for people. At least, I hope so.
LESSON #7: start with where you’re clear. Boy, it’s so easy to feel like you just have no idea about anything niche related. But it’s not true. You do. It’s important, when leading people through figuring out their niche, to start with all the places they are clear. This helps people feel confident right from the get go. I didn’t do this as well as I could have in my first round with my clients. I’m excited to do better next time. Start where you’re clear.
LESSON #8: encourage experimentation. Very few people start out knowing the perfect niche. It can take lots of experimentation. Encourage this. Encourage people to try lots of new things. To make their best guesses and then go and learn from it. The more strategic and thoughtful experiments you do the faster you’ll find your niche.
LESSON #9: A niche is often an oxymoron. Most of us are bridges between different communities. We’re a part of a lot of different communities. And sometimes, our role (our niche) is to bring together those communities together. Or to bring together two contrasting notions. You can read more about that here.
LESSON #10: Come at it from different angles. Sometimes niching is a simple matter of asking, ‘who do I want to work with?’. Sometimes you look at your wounds. Sometimes you need to look at what it is you’re drawn to create and then ask yourself who would be into that. Come at it from many different angles.
Again, if you want more help figuring our your niche, you can read more about my coaching program here.